Cody McCormick (8) battles with Anaheim's Francois Beauchemin on Saturday. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Cody McCormick trying to spark struggling Sabres by fighting

BUFFALO – For Sabres forward Cody McCormick, the special moments come in those first seconds following a fight, when he looks over to the bench and sees his teammates cheering his ferocious effort.

“They seem really appreciative of it. They recognize it,” McCormick said. “That’s something that somebody in my role can really appreciate when you come across the ice and everybody’s standing up for you. It makes everything you do, every punch, worthwhile for the team.”

So far, McCormick has been punching frequently this season. Entering Saturday’s 6-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks inside the First Niagara Center, the 30-year-old had five fights in 11 appearances.

“It’s a lot to start a year,” McCormick said. “But at the same time, I want to contribute, hopefully, give good energy to turning this thing around.”

At that pace, McCormick would scrap 27 times this season. For some perspective, Rob Ray, the most prolific fighter in franchise history, fought a career-high 27 times in 1995-96, according to hockeyfights.com.

McCormick fought a career-high 16 times in 81 games in 2010-11, his first full season with the Sabres.

Clearly, McCormick’s trying to spark the hapless Sabres. But they’ve only scored once this season within six minutes of one of his fights.

Can McCormick keep up this pace?

“Hopefully, I don’t have to,” he said. “But the way things are going here, I want to be able to do what I can. If I’m not scoring goals, I want to be doing something else that can contribute.”

Sabres winger Drew Stafford called seeing McCormick fight “uplifting.”

“He’s one of the toughest guys in the league, in my opinion,” Stafford said. “You have a lot of respect for a guy like that who’s just a heck of a teammate. He’s just a great guy, let alone on the ice, he lays it out there for everyone. When we see him out thee battling like that, doing his job, it’s you definitely get a little bit of a rush of adrenaline.”

Stafford wants some of the Sabres’ many youngsters to watch McCormick generate energy.

“You hope … they understand that that’s what he’s doing it for, that he’s not just out there for his own need to fight,” he said. “He’s doing that because it’s part of the big picture of trying to help this team win, and that’s his way of contributing, bring a little momentum and energy that, hopefully, you can build from it.”

Sabres tough guy John Scott, who won’t appeal his seven-game suspension for hitting Boston’s Loui Eriksson’s in the head last week, said he’ll “err on the side of caution for now on.”

“I just got to be a little more responsible and really pay attention to how the other players, how his head lines up, if he’s vulnerable in any way,” said Scott, who noted he had a “good” and “frank” conversation with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan during Thursday’s hearing.

Scott, while acknowledging he shouldn’t have hit Eriksson high, doesn’t believe the hit was late. He blamed NBC commentator Pierre McGuire for making viewers believe that.

“I think Pierre McGuire shooting his mouth off right after the hit got that on a lot of peoples’ minds,” Scott said. “‘It’s a late hit, it’s an elbow, it’s a high hit.’ He was just kind of throwing out all these different things, just hopefully one will stick. It wasn’t a late hit. It was just kind of an unfortunate circumstance.”

Scott said he didn’t want to “play a guessing game and drive yourself crazy” thinking about how long his suspension would be.

“So I was … expecting the worse, hoping for the best,” he said. “It kind of landed in between, I guess.”

Sabres winger Corey Tropp returned from his broken jaw, skating on the right wing with center Marcus Foligno and Steve Ott in his first NHL game since April 5, 2012.

Tropp didn’t play with the Sabres last season after tearing up his right knee in Rochester.

With Tropp back, 19-year-old center Mikhail Grigorenko was a healthy scratch for the third time this season. The struggling Russian has one assist in 13 games.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of that from our younger guys,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said. “They’ll probably be in at times and out at times.”

Rolston has recently tried skating Grigorenko on the wing.

Notes: The Sabres scratched defenseman Jamie McBain (healthy). Rookie Nikita Zadorov took his place. … Tropp sported a special jaw protector.

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